SWINDLE COLUMN: The Lesson of Achilles

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2024

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“If your only gift is that of waging war and the ability to takes lives, then it is a curse.”  Author Unknown.

In Greek Mythology, Achilles was a hero of the Trojan War who was known as being the greatest of all the Greek warriors. He was the son of a goddess and Peleus, king of Phthia and famous Argonaut. Achilles was raised in Phthia along with his childhood companion Patroclus and received his education by the most skilled warriors in the known world.

When longtime enemies, Sparta and Troy, finally make peace, all seems well.

However, when the Trojans return home and sail across the Aegean Sea to Troy, which is located in modern day Turkey, the young Trojan Prince Paris takes a passenger who will start a war that will last over 10 years.  The passenger is Helen; the wife of the king of Sparta.

King Menelaus of Sparta is infuriated.  He goes to his brother, “the king of all kings in Greece”, Agamemnon, who rules over Greece who and has an insatiable appetite for conquest.  Menelaus asks his brother to bring war to the shores of Troy.  Agamemnon smiles because his greed for power cannot be subdued.

Agamemnon summons all of the kings of Greece to prepare their battleships and men to set sail and lay siege to Troy.

It is said that the beauty of this one queen would inspire the launching of over 1000 ships and countless Greek soldiers to invade Troy. Apparently, it was true.

But, the Greeks will need the warrior, Achilles, to succeed.  Achilles and Agamemnon despise each other.  Agamemnon uses his persuasion to convince Achilles to join him stating that this will be the greatest war the world has ever seen and that his name as a hero will never be forgotten.

Achilles agrees.

But, his goddess mother warns her son that his fate would either be to gain glory and die young or to live a long but uneventful life in obscurity. Achilles chooses the former, and decides to seek glory in the Trojan War.

According to the myth, when his mother dipped him in the river Styx, which runs through the underworld, as an infant, she held him by one of his heels leaving it untouched by the waters and thus his only vulnerable body part.  Her intent was to make him immortal.

After years of battle, Achilles slays the mighty Trojan prince Hector outside the gates of Troy. The Greeks enter the city by moving their ships out of sight and placing their best soldiers inside a wooden horse left on the beach.   The Trojans bring this apparent gift offering into the city.  At nightfall, the Greek warriors attack and burn the city.

Achilles is with them.

As Achilles fights and seeks glory in battle, the weakest of all warriors, Prince Paris, draws back his bow and aims for the heart of Achilles.  The arrow descends and pierces the ankle of Achilles.  The mightiest of all warriors dies instantly as his mother predicted.

His pride, hate, and arrogance brought this mighty hero to his death.

Alluding to these legends, the term “Achilles’ heel” has come to mean a point of weakness which can lead to downfall, especially in someone or something with an otherwise strong constitution. The Achilles tendon is actually named after him following the same legend.

What can we take away from this Greek myth?

We all have an Achilles heel.  Despite our strength, we all have a weakness that may be known or unknown.  It can be addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, women, work, money, or a myriad of other things.  It can be lack of faith in God.  It can be fear, anger, or hate.  It can be arrogance and treating others as if they are below us.  The examples are endless.

A wise man knows his strengths and weaknesses.  He who knows where his Achilles heel is located within him and acknowledges it, he will always prevail in the trials of this life.